An Obsessive Guide to Car Washing

washing car and tires

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Car Washing Tips 

You love your car, truck, or SUV. You take care of it, maintain the engine, and keep the service on schedule. Why not show how much you love it and keep it looking great? That being said, if you’re going to do it – do it right! Follow our obsessive guide to car washing and get that deep clean that will make your passengers say, “WOW!”

Get the Right Equipment

You can’t do a job right without having the right tools. No matter how good you are, if you don’t have everything you need to tackle every nook and cranny, you won’t get that deep down, obsessive clean that stands out! A sponge and bucket are no longer enough – you’ll need plenty of equipment to get your vehicle obsessively clean.


It needs to be long enough to reach all areas of your vehicle comfortably but not so long as to end up in you getting tangled in it. If you must contort to reach parts of your vehicle, your hose is too short for a good clean. Get a flexible one to avoid dragging it across your car and potentially causing scratches. A kink-resistant hose will prevent issues during the cleaning process and help make cleaning up afterward easier.

Multi-Pattern Hose Nozzle

A regular, single-stream hose nozzle will not provide the flexibility or power needed. A multi-pattern nozzle should have at least a soaker (pre-rinse), a jet (power wash/tough dirt/wheels/deep spots), a fan (washing and rinsing), and a mist (general wet-down and final rinse) setting.


We’re not against cheap buckets. It’s one place you can save when putting together your kit. Any bucket will do so long as it has enough room to fit your mop, brush head, or wash mitt.


You will need a ladder unless you’re built like a basketballer, particularly if you have a taller truck or SUV. Reaching the centerline of the roof can be a stretch, even for taller-than-average drivers. Get a sturdy, safe step ladder, and be sure it has a solid footing when you use it.


Dishwashing soap isn’t going to cut it. It would help if you had soap explicitly made for washing cars. The good news is that plenty of versions are out there, from your high-end soaps from Mothers or Meguiar’s to generic label soaps. These soaps will go above and beyond dish detergent with unique formulations to help get the best results on modern paints.

Wash Mitt

Forget sponges. Sponges can drag debris across your car’s finish and hold onto dirt. Like those from Chemical Guys, a microfiber chenille mitt will trap the debris and prevent scratches and swirls. It’s also a nice hands-on part of the process and allows you to wash anywhere you can get your hand – even spaces that brushes and mops can’t quite get.

Wash Mop

Alternatively, a wash mop extends your reach, particularly if you have short arms or aren’t comfortable on a ladder. While it doesn’t have the wash mitt’s feel – and won’t be quite as good for washing in tight areas – it can cover more ground faster.

Wheel Brush

One place you don’t want to use a wash mitt is in your wheels – unless you want some busted knuckles. A long-handled, wire-bristle wheel brush gets into those gaps and nooks. It is also useful for cleaning your tire’s sidewalls and rims – the bristles can help knock off chunks of dirt. Look for a good quality brush featuring protective rubber bumpers to avoid any incidental damage to the paint near the wheel areas.

Drying Towels

Not drying your car allows water to evaporate, leaving any minerals behind. This produces spotting; even though you’ve washed the car or truck, it will still look dirty and unwashed. Drying prevents water spots and swirls – look for micro-fiber towels; they work best!


Complimentary to the drying towels, squeegees can save some time, but they can’t replace them to finish the drying process. Use the squeegee to remove the bulk, and use the towels to finish the job.

Tire Cleaner

Make sure to get a non-acid spray with no detergents. They may cost a bit more, but it’s worth it. These remove the concerns with a splash, drifting, or overspray, and you won’t be as worried about it coming in contact with paint or trim.

Bug and Tar Remover

You can get heavy-duty car wash shampoo to target bugs and tar, but it is an expensive route unless your vehicle is covered. Instead, spot remover is likely your best choice. Follow the steps and hit where you need to, don’t bother with what will easily be knocked off with a brush or mitt!

Wash Day!

First, you must choose the right day to wash your car. Hot, sunny days may seem like the perfect time, but it’s the worst time to wash! The heat and sun will cause the water to evaporate faster than you can dry it, leaving residue spots on your vehicle.

The first step is to clean the tires. Most of the time, starting from the bottom is a bad idea, but with a car, it’s different – the toughest grime is always on the bottom! Put some car soap in your bucket and mix the water and soap well. Use your tire cleaner and spray down your tires, then use the tire brush to scrub lightly. Even if the tire cleaner you use claims “no scrubbing required,” even light scrubbing will yield a better result. After cleaning the tires, could you give them a good rinse?

Once you’ve cleaned the tires, change the soap and water mix. You don’t want tire cleaner mixed in with what is being used on the rest of your vehicle; it’s not pretty. Don’t use the same mitt or brush for the rest of the car either – you don’t want to transfer any of the chemicals from your tire cleaner into the mix via the cleaning implement.

Rinse your vehicle from the top down. This serves two purposes. First, it knocks off large particles of dirt and debris that could scratch your car as you wash it. Second, it helps cool off the exterior to keep water from evaporating too quickly during washing.

Use the wash mitt starting from the middle of your vehicle’s roof and work your way out—overlap spots, so no area is missed. After washing the roof, rinse it off immediately to remove the soap. Water drying is bad – soap drying is worse! Repeat this process, working from the top down and the car’s rear to the front. The front of your vehicle will collect more dirt than the rear, and the top will collect less dirt than the bottom, so you want to wash the dirty parts. Working towards these dirtiest areas will make sure you don’t drag dirt to the areas that are less likely to collect dirt, to begin with. After finishing each section of the car, re-rinse the areas you have previously done to prevent water spots due to evaporation.

Once you have washed all car areas, give it one final rinse using the mist setting on the nozzle. Using the drying cloths, gently dry off the vehicle, working in parallel rows from the top down again. A squeegee can pull some of the water off, allowing you to use only one or two towels – without a squeegee, you may need up to five or six towels.

The Nooks and Crannies

The true obsessive gets into all the little nooks and crannies of the vehicle. These deep places usually skipped over in car washes, and the kids doing the charity washes in a parking lot.

  • Wheel Wells –Clean these while you are cleaning the tires. Use the jet setting on your hose nozzle to blow off chunks of dirt and debris. Then, use the wheel brush and add some elbow grease to get the deep dirt inside the wheel wells. Could you give them a good rinsing when finished?
  • The Bottom of the Mirrors – Dirt from the tires and bugs can get smeared here. Use bug and tar remover on these areas, then clean them along with the rest of that section of the car when it is time.
  • Under the Bumpers – Seeing a bit of a trend here? Getting underneath your vehicle is not the most popular thing, but it’s where the obsession must go. The underside of bumpers can accumulate tar and debris, which can cake on there. Use bug and tar remover, plus give it a good scrubbing with a mitt or brush.
  • Windshield Wipers – If you don’t clean the blades of your wipers regularly, you’ll be dragging dirt across your nice, clean windshield when it rains. This will cause streaking. Soak a paper towel in rubbing alcohol and work it along the blade from one end to the other.
  • That Annoying Area Between the Windshield and the Engine Compartment Where Leaves and Dead Bugs Accumulate – You know exactly the spot. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the debris, then makes sure you get in there with your mitt or even use a tire brush – just not the same one you already used for the tires.

If you want to get your car obsessively clean, follow these steps. You’ll get your car cleaner than it ever has been before!

Keep Your Car Clean Across the Country

Maybe you’re transporting you’re freshly washed classic or exotic to a car show or buying or selling it to a private seller or at an auction. Maybe you’re just making a major move across the country and don’t want to have to scrub off 1500 miles of bugs, dirt, and debris. Here at Number 1 Auto Transport, we’ve got various solutions for you. On an uncovered carrier, especially on the bottom level, your vehicle is protected from road dust and dirt, keeping it looking great.

But if you want the best? Ensure your ride arrives as pristine as when left in one of Number 1 Auto Transport’s covered carriers! Protected from the weather, the sun or the cold, and flying debris, these enclosed carriers are essential for keeping your vehicle in top condition!

Have Questions or Need a Car Shipping Quote?

Number 1 Auto Transport is an auto transport service company specializing in transporting all vehicles door to door. We offer the highest quality customer service at the most reasonable and honest rates. Please email us or call 855-422-4141 for a FREE  CAR SHIPPING QUOTE to ship your car.

We look forward to giving you quick answers to any questions you may have!